The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Kennedy ) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 21—4:18 p.m.]
538. Personal for the Secretary and Under Secretary. The Ambassador being absent in Edinburgh today, Sir Alexander Cadogan70 sent for Johnson71 this afternoon to convey the following highly secret information which he said the Prime Minister requests be communicated to the President also.
On Wednesday April 26 the Prime Minister will announce, probably under the guise of “a state of emergency”, military measures of the first importance, including conscription. The territorial army will be integrated into the regular army for a period probably of 3 months. At the same time a certain number of reservists will be mobilized and trained to take over from the territorial army at the end of the period, the territorial army being then returned to its normal occupations and regular training prescribed for those forces. At the end of another 3 months (the exact length of time has not been fixed) the mobilized reservists will in turn be released and their places taken by the new cadres of young conscripts who by that time will have received their training.[Page 172]
The decision on conscription doubtless will have unfavorable reper cussions in Germany. The Government with a view therefore to “softening the blow” proposes to send Sir Nevile Henderson72 back to his post on Sunday or Monday next with instructions to communicate the information to the German Government perhaps 24 hours in advance of announcement here. The Government feels it important to have the Ambassador back in Berlin before the announcement is made on Wednesday and it is for this reason only that his return has been moved up from the original scheduled date of April 28. The Under Secretary said that they feel sure that his accelerated return will be interpreted in some quarters as a reversion to the policy of “appeasement” of Germany and he was quite emphatic in saying that the Ambassador’s return at this particular time had no meaning at all other than the one above given. I understand that the French Ambassador is likewise returning to Berlin about the same time and in advance of his original schedule.
At the time of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that the trade negotiations with Germany would be broken off. Cadogan says that a reference will probably be made to this in the announcement on Wednesday; that they will try to work in some sort of statement to indicate to the Germans that this Government would welcome a resumption of the interrupted trade talks.
The Under Secretary stated that few people were informed of the foregoing and that the Government attaches great importance to its not becoming public before the event. The British Ambassador in Paris has had, however, to advise Prime Minister Daladier and M. Bonnet,73 and the Under Secretary expressed his doubt that entire secrecy could be kept; British Foreign Office experience of the ability of responsible French officials to keep secrets has not been an encouraging one.